Today's New York Times tackles an important dimension of the famine battering drought-stricken Somalia: With the media focused on stories like the U.S. debt ceiling debate, the U.K. phone hacking scandal, and the Norway shooting rather than hunger in east Africa, relief organizations are having a hard time raising money. "The overwhelming problem is that the American public is not seeing and feeling the urgency of this crisis," a Unicef executive tells the paper (a cartoon in The Times of London recently made a similar point more controversially, depicting a starving Somali child saying, "I've had a bellyfull of phone hacking").
The data does appear to back up the claim, though the famine is certainly generating coverage. In the two weeks since the U.N. officially declared a famine in parts of Somalia, the story hasn't registered on Pew's News Coverage Index, with the debt crisis, phone hacking scandal, and Norway shooting driving the news cycle instead. A look at Google Search Volume and Google News Reference Volume over the last 30 days for the terms "Somalia," "Debt Ceiling," "Phone Hacking," and "Norway" suggests that the phone hacking scandal dominated coverage in mid-July, the Norway attack led the pack a week later, and the debt crisis stole headlines at the end of the month (admittedly we could have picked different search terms). A search of these same search terms in Lexis Nexis's "major newspapers" over the last week reveals the following article volume: Debt Ceiling (1,987), Norway (1,140), Phone Hacking (382), and Somalia (236).